Three AU Dining Services staff members say understaffing and poor management are the causes of slow service and stressful work environments at AU dining locations.
At the Food Service Worker Speakout on March 3, the workers expressed their desire to give students the best service possible but said that food contractor Aramark’s management prevents them from doing so.
Aramark has been cutting jobs and hours, making it harder for the dining staff to fulfill all of their responsibilities, according to the workers. They said that students should be receiving the service they pay for.
“If you’re willing to stand up for us, we’re willing to stand up for you guys 100 percent,” Kevin, an AU Dining worker who only gave his first name, said.
The Student Worker Alliance, a student-run organization focused on defending worker’s rights, hosted the event to make these problems known. The group’s goal is to show students that the food service workers care about them and deserve respect and fair treatment, according to Shyheim Snead, a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a member of the Student Worker Alliance.
“The main goal is to build relationships between students and workers and increase student consciousness about the plights and the issues that workers experience here on campus,” Snead said.
The workers said they are embarrassed by how frequently they run out of products at Freshii or other dining locations but explained that the shortages are completely out of their control. One worker, Christine, said she is upset that Aramark changed the meal swipe option at P.O.D. Mini mart to include only soda instead of water, milk or juice. She wants students to be able to choose healthy options.
“I wouldn’t want to give you anything I wouldn’t give my children,” Christine said.
Kenneth Chadwick, the director of dining at AU, did not respond to multiple requests by phone call from The Eagle March 6 and March 16 for comment on the worker’s accusations against Aramark in time for publication.
Karen Cutler, who is the director of corporate communications for Aramark and is unaffiliated with AU, said there is a procedure Aramark follows to discuss the grievances the workers have with understaffing and a lack of resources.
“We follow all terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement which includes amongst other things a clear process for how to address and resolve employee issues and concerns,” Cutler said in an email.
While AU’s dining staff workers are currently part of a union, Aramark had not made a promise that new workers will be covered by the same union contract when Tenley Campus re-opens. The Local 23 Union that represents food service workers at AU wrote a petition asking that Aramark guarantee workers the same rights upon the re-opening of Tenley Campus.
The Student Worker Alliance is encouraging members of the AU community to sign the petition.
“We want to make sure that the rights the workers have here, because they are in a union, extend to those workers at the Washington College of Law,” Snead said.